When it’s January and you live in Minnesota, there is no high horse on which to sit and judge or criticize any place in the world. So Miami becomes an easy go-to place and our goal is to find the areas without tons of club hopping tourists and to avoid the tacky strip mall vibe you can find in some areas. It can be a great long weekend to restore the level of humidity back to our flaking skin and static-ridden hair, and actually enjoy some of the Deco history that still exists.
Downtown: Near Brickell, an up-and-coming business and shopping area. Brickell is continuing to grow and develop, and the offerings and hotels are vastly improving.
Wynwood: The current hip area, which is getting better and better with unique stores and restaurants. Beware, by 10:00 on a Friday night, you’ll be the oldest one on the street (no matter how young you think you are).
Arts/Design District: This was Wynwood before Wynwood. It’s more gentrified now, with major brands, studios, etc.
Miami Beach: It’s separated into sections. The northern section, which is a little no man’s land (and quieter), the 16thStreet/Lincoln Road South Beach mid-section, which is a tourist haven, and Art Deco South Beach, which is more of a tourist hell, with the quirkier deco style added in that has been somewhat preserved into a much more interesting vibe.
Where to Stay:
For Quieter Luxury:
- The Villa, Casa Casauarina: The old Versace mansion in the heart of South Beach, as over-the-top and expensive as you’d imagine, but small and quiet.
- The Tides: A smaller, high-touch boutique property in South Beach with insane people-watching from the safety of the front deck.
- The Four Seasons: Bigger, but consistently Four Seasons. It is on the “mainland,” with a more dignified location.
- Mandarin Oriental: Speaking of dignified location, the Mandarin Oriental is on Brickell Key (just a little off the mainland), with great views and incredible quiet.
For Hip Luxury:
- The Edition: Relatively new Marriott boutique-style hotel created thoughtfully and creatively with a central location.
- 1 Hotel: The South Beach place to be, but it’s also huge.
- Faena: The new kid, transplanted from its (much better) roots in Buenos Aires. Not our personal favorite, but everyone else seems to love it.
To Spy on the Cool Kids (or the kids who think they’re cool):
- Delano: A little older, but still staying high on the hip list.
- The Mondrian: A big, classic boutique hotel facing the Biscayne Bay side.
- Setai: It’s aging now, but used to be the place of cool, hip Zen in the common areas.
For Something Dependable:
- The Fontainebleau: Gigantic, with thumping music—but the rooms in the renovated original building with oceanfront balconies are little oases. Note: There is no level of personal service (or service at all?) in a hotel this size, but the restaurants are an exception.
- SLS: Also a chain, but the terrace and back area are a secluded little oasis. Like in LA, Jose Andres group does the food, and it’s phenomenal. Worth a trip for breakfast no matter where you’re staying.
- Carillon: A resort a little further north, designed to stay there and do spa treatments in peace.
For Something Smaller:
Where to Eat:
Restaurants close to Miami Beach fall into categories by location, and traffic over the causeway (into Wynwood or MiMo) is a disaster—so try to find places ganged together and hit them all at once.
The Big Names:
Every chef with a name has found his or her way to Miami. You’ll find ’em all here, many at hotels, and usually executed pretty well. These are easy choices, but without a lot of local character:
- Daniel Boulud (DB Bistro at JW Marriott)
- Jean Georges (Jean-Georges at The Edition)
- Andrew Carmellini (The Dutch at the W)
- Michael Mina (Pizza & Burger at The Fontainebleau)
- José Andres (The Bazaar at SLS)
- Gaston Acurio (La Mar at the Mandarin Oriental)
- Michael’s Genuine: The original always-crowded crowd pleaser. (Michael Schwartz now also has a close-by restaurant to Michael’s called Cypress Tavern.)
- Alter: One of the more creative restaurants in Miami, with the outdoor Bar Alter (a must-do for a drink).
- Mason Eatery: New all-day, all-night diner. With booze, of course.
- Sugarcane: Huge place, huge menu, but an unparalleled outdoor patio.
- KYU: Asian food with a barbecue twist. We’re here for it.
- Zak the Baker: Sweet tooths, unite. Zak has been a Beard nominee twice for a reason.
- Obra Kitchen Table: More towards Brickell, this South American spot focuses on grill-centric dishes.
- Blue Collar: A fun little restaurant with a hint of 70’s vibe and comfort food.
Near Miami Beach:
- Yardbird: Chicken. Enough said. Eat it ‘til you’re sick. This was the original location (which is now expanding across the country starting in LA)
- Stiltsville Fish Bar: There’s no shortage of fish in Miami, but this one boasts fresh dishes from a Beard Rising Star nominee.
- Macchialina: If you want to feel more like you’re in New York than Miami, this rustic Italian gem will do it for you.
- 27 Restaurant and Bar: A melting pot of cuisines and cultures from South American to Caribbean, giving an “authentic Miami” vibe.
- Broken Shaker: Probably one of the coolest outdoor hotel bars you’ll see. In the Freehand Hotel.
- Pubbelly: It’s now sort of a chain with a few locations, but this little “Asian gastro pub” has great food and the chef has been a James Beard semifinalist multiple times.
- Joe’s Stone Crab:If you like the idea of the menu at Joe’s, but not the idea that it’s chain with locations everywhere, try the Miami Beach location. It’s the original.
- Lucali: We approve of finding any use for an empty wine bottle—they use them to roll out the pizzas here.
- Taquiza: Brave South Beach for one of the town’s more authentic taquerias.
- Upland is a Stephen Starr transplant from the original in New York, but the food is great and it has a small sidewalk patio.